Writing successful proposals: the basics

Second in a series of how to write successful proposals; the first post, on picking your potential funder, is here. Today I'm going to talk about the basics: good mechanics, good grammar, and following instructions.

It's very important to pay attention to what the funder wants. Three pages? No more than 50? OK! With 12 point type and one-inch margins? Do it! A table of contents? Attachments? A lot of life involves following instructions (think about completing an IRS 1040). Follow them.

Attend the bidders' conference, if there is one. It's always useful to be in the room and see the body language of the person answering questions. And to hear the questions as they are asked. The summary produced after won't do the drama, such as it is, justice.

Pay attention to deadlines. Like any other piece of writing, a proposal is not something you should be completing at the last minute. If it's possible, finish a draft a week or so in advance, and put it aside for a few days. You can use the time to gather all the attachments -- chances are they are not going to change. Then look at the text again, and revise it. Remember to leave enough time for production, you may be submitting 8 or 10 copies of a lengthy document.

These reminders all sound elementary, and they are, but it's always surprising how often grant writers forget them.

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